APR announces new design guidance for PE film packaging

The association says these guidelines will close the loop between package designers and plastic recyclers.

October 15, 2021

The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, has announced an updated version of the APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability for polyethylene (PE) Film Packaging. The new guidelines were developed by a working group of APR’s Film Reclamation Committee and reflect the consensus of film recyclers, converters and brands, the association says.

“These changes are consistent with our efforts to ensure that the APR Design Guide has an impact as the essential reference document that brand owners can use to meet the demands and recycling standards for the global marketplace,” says Steve Alexander, president and CEO of APR. “With the surge of sustainability commitments by global brand owners, more detailed design guidance addresses an urgent need.”

The revised guidance:

  • Rewrites the base materials section to acknowledge the diversity of technologies that make up PE polymers and their impact on recycling compatibility. The new guidance addresses EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) copolymers and ethylene copolymer ionomers. The APR Design Guide also recommends a threshold for “preferred” materials of 90 percent PE at a minimum and copolymers by weight of the total packaging structure for full compatibility with PE mechanical recycling processes to maintain the quality and value of the final recyclate.
  • Acknowledges SiOx and AlOx barriers as “preferred” materials and includes a robust discussion of additives and barrier coatings.
  • Has an expanded discussion of inks, primers, coatings and laminating adhesives. Tested inks, primers, coatings and laminating adhesives that disperse in the final polymer without having an impact on postconsumer recycling (PCR) or final product quality are recognized as preferred.
  • Features a more detailed list of additives, coatings and other enhancements to film packaging that requires testing to determine recycling compatibility.

According to a news release from APR, the updates are part of a larger initiative to improve the capture and recovery of plastic film packaging supported by The Recycling Partnership’s Film & Flexibles Coalition. Other goals of the APR and The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, include encouraging more residential collection and recovery of films, developing design guidance for polypropylene films and researching the suitability of curbside recycling for film plastics.

“PE film and flexible packaging is a fast-growing segment for consumer brands,” says Sandi Childs, APR director of films and flexible packaging. “The ability to measure compatibility with recycling is vital to keeping a clean stream of materials flowing to recyclers from retail store drop off bins and potentially from residential curbside collection in the future.”